After working for nonprofits and state and federal agencies on the East Coast, including the U.S. Department of Justice, Mike Costigan will bring his expertise to Del Norte County.

Costigan will begin his new job as executive director of Rural Human Services in mid-February, the agency announced Friday. He will replace Teri McCune-Oostra, who recently retired.

According to RHS Board President Ron Sandler, Costigan will be working with the organization's stakeholders as well as its program managers. Costigan will also work closely with McCune-Oostra, who will get him up to speed on RHS' various grants, Sandler said.

"We probably have over 50 grants that are out there," he said. "He'll be working close with our fiscal department to make sure they're not only on track, but will be used appropriately."

RHS is a local non-profit organization that serves as an umbrella for a multitude of services and programs, including the Workforce Center, which helps find jobs for the unemployed and under-employed, and Harrington House Domestic Violence Programs.

Costigan, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, received his political science degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1986 before his career took him to Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area. While there, he worked in the public affairs office at the U.S. Department of Justice, as director of communications for the National Council for Better Education, as special assistant to the Virginia secretary of natural resources and as policy advisor for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

In 2002, Costigan started the Virginia Exile Foundation, which strove to reduce violent crime in Virginia. The foundation worked with prosecutors to recruit additional prosecutors to focus on gun crimes committed by felons who shouldn't have had guns.

"We were pretty successful," Costigan said. "Over about a three- to four-year period of time we were able to reduce murders in some of our high target areas by 75 percent. And we were able to reduce gun-related violence by about 80 percent in the state of Virginia."

Costigan later returned to the U.S. Department of Justice, and spent some time as a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Costigan hopes his leadership management skills will serve him well in Del Norte County. He said he had been looking for opportunities to return to California for years now, and RHS was the first organization he saw that was doing the kind of work he felt strongly about.

Ultimately, Costigan said, he'd like to increase RHS's capacity and services and look for longer-term solutions to some of the community's bigger problems.

"A lot of people are hurting," he said. " There are a lot of important services that need to be provided."

Although he starts his job in February, Costigan said he'll be bringing his family, including his three sons ages 19, 13 and 11, to Del Norte in the spring. He said his two younger sons will be starting school locally in the fall.

Rural Human Services hired Compass Points Nonprofits Services to help it with the transition between executive directors, Sandler said. RHS conducted a nationwide search that netted responses from a variety of applicants ranging from those who simply wanted a job to others who were highly qualified, he said.

After whittling the number of applicants to six, RHS board members conducted a first round of interviews via phone, Sandler said. The top three candidates were then brought to Del Norte to meet with RHS staff and board members.

"From the input we got from our consultants and from what the board and staff felt, Mike was our No. 1 candidate," Sandler said. "We wanted to make sure we had somebody who's here for the long haul. We think Mike is that guy."

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